Rick & Dick Hoyt: An Inspirational Father-Son Duo
Rick Hoyt loves the Boston Marathon. He has run it for the last 17 years. But he can't do it alone. Because cerebral palsy has confined him to a wheelchair since birth, Rick Hoyt needs a push. That's where his father comes in. Dick Hoyt loves the Marathon too. He has also run it 17 straight years and looks forward to the next one. But he too needed a push to get started.
Rick, then a student at South Middle School in Westfield, came home from watching a high school basketball game one day and told his father -- with the help of a head switch atop his wheelchair -- about a charity road race staged to benefit a fellow student who was paralyzed in an auto accident. He told his father he wanted to be a part of the race. Dick Hoyt accepted the gentle push. Never mind that he was 40 years old and ran just once or twice a week -- "to keep the weight down." Never mind he ran a mile at a time -- at most. Never mind he was not only being asked to run five miles, but to push his son and the 50-pound wheelchair with him. His son wanted to be a part of this race. A friend snapped a picture of the father and son as they crossed the finish line that afternoon. "It's the biggest smile you ever saw in your life," Dick says of the look on his son's face. "Rick's still got that picture at home."
That's how it started. Since then, Rick and Dick Hoyt have completed 50 marathons and 121 triathlons. They also crossed the country on a bicycle, completing the 3,700-mile trek in 45 days. And aside from their tremendous physical achievements, the Hoyts have been opening plenty of eyes along the way. "When we first started, nobody wanted us," says Dick, now 56 years old. "Nobody would come near us. But we just ran every weekend and after a while people would finally come over and talk to us and they could see Rick could understand them and that he had a personality and a sense of humor. "We started breaking down a bunch of barriers. Now we're getting invited all over the world. Not just this country but countries all over the world. We're breaking down barriers about people with disabilities."
And, as his father is quick to point out, Rick may have been born with cerebral palsy and he may be confined to a wheelchair, but he's accomplished things that would seriously challenge most people.
Now 39, Rick Hoyt is a high school and Boston University graduate. He has his own apartment and, with the help of his computer, takes on speaking engagements throughout the region. He works at Boston College and Children's Hospital. He has been all over the world, competing athletically and constantly teaching people. "I believe Rick lives a happier life than probably 95 percent of the population in the world," his father says. "He can't talk, he can't move his arms, he can't walk, but people see what he can do and they say, `Hey, he can get out and enjoy life, just like everybody else.' " But it's clear Rick is happiest when he's on the move.
Doesn't sound like a tandem that's slowing down any. "Rick could have said, 'the hell with it. I'm going to lay there and be like a vegetable. Like the doctor said I was going to be,' " Dick Hoyt says. "But he hasn't. He's doing all these things you and I do. It's just that he needs a little bit of help. That's all."
Again, that's where his dad comes in. "I think we're pushing each other," Dick says. "No doubt about it."
We LOVED the Team Hoyt event and Dick couldn’t have been any kinder or more gracious! His message is so in tune with the mission here at Mercy Medical Center! Dick signed autographs and spoke so kindly to everyone who wanted to meet him; the entire evening couldn’t have gone better and I am extremely glad to hear the Dick thought so too!
Thanks again for setting Dick up to speak with us. He really did a phenomenal job and our employees are still talking about him and his/Rick’s life. His message of YES YOU CAN is applicable in so many facets of life and his dedication and role as a father was touching to our entire organization. Please pass on our sincere appreciation and admiration.
To have you kick off our day that was focused on the body was a perfect choice. Being a parent of 3 children and having several parents in the audience, your message took on a very personal meaning to a lot of us. We all came away asking ourselves the same question…could we do that, would we do that for our own child. I think the unanimous answer we heard ourselves saying was “YES YOU CAN!”
To stand in the back of the room and watch the emotion in each of the faces of my franchises and colleagues, and hear the exclamations of amazement at your miraculous story was very exciting for me. I also truly appreciated your presence at dinner and our after gathering that night. It gave our franchises a chance to really connect with you on a personal level. I think that drove your message further home. It’s rare that any of us ever get the opportunity to socialize with one of our heroes.
We have hired countless keynote speakers over the last 30 years and it was unanimous that you were by far one, if not the best.
To be honest, I am not sure how we could possibly express our admiration and respect for Dick. We conducted a post-meeting survey and people said that we would never be able to top Dick's presentation. They said that by listening to Dick, they truly felt that anything was possible.